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Full text of "A history of Persia"

was the local representative of the Emperor who signed
the document.
In Chapter XL. reference has been made to the in-
vasion and occupation of the Yemen by the Abyssinians,
whose capital at that period was Axum, near the Red Sea
littoral In A.D. 570, the year of the Prophet's birth,
Abraha,1 the capable Abyssinian Viceroy, marched on
Mecca, ostensibly to avenge an insult offered to the
church at Sana, but probably intending to destroy the
Kaaba from political motives. Brushing aside all oppo-
sition, he reached Tayif, three stages east of the Sacred
City. Thence he despatched raiding parties which cap-
tured, among other live stock, two hundred camels
belonging to Abdul Muttalib. Following with his
main body, which included that portentous monster an
elephant, he halted outside Mecca and sent envoys to
inform the panic-stricken Arabs that he had no desire
to injure them but was determined to destroy the
Kaaba. Abdul Muttalib proceeded to the camp of the
enemy to treat with Abraha, who restored his camels
but would not be turned from his purpose.
The legend runs that Abdul Muttalib would only
ask for his camels, and in reply to a contemptuous
remark from Abraha retorted that the Kaaba., Deeded
no human defender. On the fateful day the elephant
refused to advance, and the failure of the expedition is
commemorated in the following verses from the Koran :
c< Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the army
of the Elephant ? Did he not cause their stratagem to
miscarry ? And he sent against them flocks of little
birds which cast upon them small clay stones, and made
them like unto the stubble of which the cattle have eaten."
The passage is a glorified description of an epidemic of
small-pox—also termed " small stones " in Arabic—which
is historical. The Abyssinian army retreated, and Abraha
died at Sana of the foul disease. The news that the Kaaba
had been protected by divine intervention must have
spread far and wid<£, and greatly enhanced both the
sanctity of the Shrine and the prestige of the Kureish.
1 Abraha is the Abyssinian form of Ibrahim or Abraham.